Created in 1917 by Julius Rosenwald (1862–1933), president of Sears, Roebuck and Company, the Rosenwald Fund had a profound effect on rural education for African Americans in the South during the early twentieth century. Incorporated in 1928, the fund concentrated on four broad initiatives: education, health, fellowships, and race relations.
It is best known for a rural school-building program, which funded the construction of 4,977 public schoolhouses, 163 vocational shops, and 217 teachers’ homes in 883 counties in 15 Southern states. Reflecting Rosenwald’s goal of encouraging communities to work to better themselves, the fund contributed $4.4 million in matching funds to the school-building program between 1914 and 1932. Local African Americans and Whites provided the remainder of the $28.4 million cost.
In the area of health services, the fund concentrated on the improvement of health care facilities and on advanced training for physicians, nurses, and hospital administrators. The fund’s fellowship program provided the opportunity for Black and White Southerners to pursue graduate and professional training at Northern universities or European institutions. In 1942, the fund organized a race relations division, codirected by Will W. Alexander and Charles S. Johnson, the first African American president of Fisk University. Conforming to Rosenwald’s desire that the fund expend its resources to benefit the current generation, it closed in 1948.
- Ascoli, P. M. (2006). Julius Rosenwald: The man who built Sears, Roebuck and advanced the cause of Black education in the American South. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
- Hoffschwelle, M. S. (2006). The Rosenwald Schools of the American South. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
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